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“It Will Take a Change of Mindset”

A sampling of comments from social media about RW’s ebook “Radio Engineering in Crisis”

The comments here were posted to social media by readers of the Radio World ebook “Radio Engineering in Crisis.” Read it at

That’s a good read. I like Gary Kline’s contribution around interviewing new engineers, specifically around site and equipment condition. As an engineer the condition of equipment is usually high on my priority list, especially if I am being called in to fix something urgently.


The status quo is in serious danger, but radio will adapt to the engineering shortage. I can foresee entire stations moving into the cloud, and a greater reliance on manufacturers’ field service. The broadcast engineer of the future will likely become a data center technician or a frequent flier, and there will be many fewer of us.


Ditching the high-power RF may be possible around urban areas, but rural areas will get the shaft. Due to terrain shielding, DSL is the only option with 800k download and 300k upload … using remnants of the old Ma Bell co-ax system. Executives at the top still get their big raises and perks annually, but rural areas are ignored. Cellular service … I essentially live in a cellular ‘white area’ … and the FCC doesn’t care about serving rural areas … the FCC talks loud and says and does nothing.


This has been a serious problem for a while. It is getting worse as more technologists retire. Employers need to increase pay and incentives to turn this around.


Broadcast engineers are an endangered species, there is no doubt. I’m grateful to have worked in a time when at least some management respected and valued their tech staff. The thought of being tied to a pager and having a dozen sites to worry over is not appealing to anyone with ‘a life.’ I loved working on transmitters (in well-cared-for sites) and designing user-friendly broadcast studios, but that was ‘back in the day’ when such settings weren’t uncommon (at least in this market). Seeing the neglected TX sites owned by venture capitalists, I’m glad to be retired.


I learned about RF as a teenager with ham radio. That helped me with my first phone and AM/FM transmitters. After college I drifted into TV post. But I still have a love for RF. Is there a future for young RF inclined engineers? Does it take an IEEE degree and will it pay above scale?


To attract broadcast radio engineers, the industry needs to respect the job position and compensate accordingly. Turn to the cell industry for your compensation and benefit template, then sweeten the deal a bit more.


You can’t get engineers or engineering groups involved in changing the mindset of management. That has to come from other management groups, otherwise it looks like a self-serving exercise. It will take a change of mindset at the local, regional and corporate management levels. This is a problem that has been warned about for decades and it is currently on the cusp of crisis. In 10 years, it will be too late.


One must continue to listen, learn and love their chosen professional calling. This requires licensing certification and continuing education to stay on top of their game.

I was working for an AM/FM combo when in college and fully expected to stay in the business. Then industry came calling with a 50% premium to go with them. Never looked back and it appears things headed down hill after that day. I still have my license but that doesn’t seem to be important anymore. As industry has done, most maintenance is contracted out to manufacturers now, so if I were to be in the business, I’d look at the OEM for work. MBAs have decided it doesn’t cost as much to do that.


There’s much more RF work in mobile networks, home/metro internet and emergency communications, automotive systems, industrial IoT, military and even space systems. In practice, it may or may not require a degree, depending on level of design or debug or deep sales activity vs just installing.


The other challenge is senior broadcast techs who are tired and can’t really be bothered passing the baton to new engineers. I was involved in a short-term project where I saw many of the broadcast techs were 60+ years old. There’s nothing wrong with that; however … their energy levels were fading, they were no longer excited to be at the forefront … Meanwhile company management had no succession ideas because to them it wasn’t a problem. To me, it’s all about the seven traits of a good engineer, including continuous learning, serving as mentors, good tech and listening skills — these are key to empowering the next generation of people who will need to be both IT techs and broadcast engineers for a sustainable future.